January 21, 2013 in handmade goodness
A belated Happy New Year, I hope you have had a good start to 2013? It’s been a slow start getting back to my blog since a very busy Christmas and new year with lots going on, some great and some not so great which I must admit has made it hard to get started again. The new working year has begun with a bang, I worked on a really enjoyable food shoot last week with a wonderful team and alongside this I have been putting together a large interiors story for a magazine that we will be shooting on location soon. I was also interviewed by Making magazine for a future issue so keep your eye out.
I adore these two little birds, handmade by Abigail Brown, that my children received as gifts this Christmas. My daughter has the robin and my son the blue tit and they were delighted when they unwrapped them, big smiles on their faces and they sit very proudly in their bedrooms. These little birds are two of the varieties that visit our small London garden and we watch through the kitchen doors, the robins nesting in our hedge and the blue tits flitting in the branches of a silver birch. I photographed this one sitting in a handmade nest by Holy Smoke that I bought one year at the Selvedge fair.
They are beautifully handmade by Abigail in her London studio and have their own little personalities. No two birds are quite the same. They will be kept and treasured and hopefully become family heirlooms, given to future children.
You can see more of Abigail’s lovely work on her website.
Every year I decorate my tree in a mixture of these charming handmade Croatian decorations called ‘licitar’. This year is no different with the children helping me to hang them, carefully placing the galloping horses around the bottom branches of the tree. The top of the tree, where the children cannot reach, is hung with the smaller hearts, all slightly different, bought and collected over the years as our trees have grown to fit the spaces we live in. I have bought more of these gorgeous decorations every time I visit Zagreb.
They remind me of my childhood too. We always decorated the tree on Christmas Eve to the sound of Croatian carol singing and these decorations are unique to the Zagreb area. I love their homemade, naive and folkloric quality and I have not seen anything quite the same anywhere else. They are made from a type of honey dough, dipped in a red glaze and intricately decorated with fine piped icing, mirrors added for a little sparkle and sometimes a touch of découpage too. I painted this freehand Christmas tree on to a blank canvas for a bit of fun and to make it a feature.
They can be bought in various shapes and sizes such as hearts, horses, horseshoes, boots, birds, cherries and wreathes, and although they are sometimes referred to as gingerbread they don’t in fact contain any ginger.
Amazingly their origin dates back to the 16th century where decorated cakes were made in convents, in intricately carved moulds, and were sold in fairs and church festivals. In 2010 this style of Croatian craft was added to a UNESCO heritage list in order to help preserve its cultural significance. Nowadays the heart shapes are also given at Valentine’s Day and ‘volim te’ means ‘I love you’ in Croatian.
I hope you like them as much as I do, they really are one of my favourite things.
Sretan Božić! (HappyChristmas!)
We usually try to get away for a city break during autumn half term to recharge and and gain inspiration from a change of scene. One of the reasons (or excuses!) for our recent trip to Edinburgh was to visit my lovely friend, photographer Uli Schade and her husband Andrew Dick, who have just re-located there from London. It is Andrew’s home town and since the summer they have been busy bees, designing and opening a new destination menswear, accessories and home wares shop at number 3, North West Circus Place in Stockbridge, a beautiful Georgian terrace on a cobbled street in one of Edinburgh’s smartest areas. It is now open and they celebrated with a launch party this week. Please say hello to Dick’s.
All the clothes are sourced with care from all over the world and chosen for a reason, all the companies have a story and a background. Not the usual well-known brands but more interesting small companies, featuring high quality, handmade classic styles for men. Just some of the collection includes hand frame-knitted Shetland Isle jumpers by Laurence J Smith, flannel and chambray shirts from the New England Shirt Company, Dick’s own specification varsity jackets by Golden Bear and Tellason selvedge denim jeans from San Francisco, raincoats by Stutterheim in Sweden, classic Breton tops from France, brogues and boots by Tricker’s and Eastland and superb polos and t-shirts by Sunspel, both from England. It was perfect for my husband who loved it and bought lots. There is much more in the store and they are considering introducing some womenswear in the future too. I look forward to that!
And it’s not just for boys. The accessories and home wares include notebooks made in Paris by La Compagnie du Kraft – “The most unproductive makers of notebooks in the Western world”, incense by Paine’s of Maine, ceramics by Makkum Tichelaar – designed by Atelier NL and made from local Dutch clays (Uli made a fun animated video of them on their Facebook page here). They have leather wallets, pencil cases and footballs made by Sonnenleder in southern Germany, classic canvas bags by Brady, kitchen knives by French company Opinel and Windmuehlenmesser from Germany. There are handmade wooden crows by Mikael Nilsson in Sweden and woodblock letter prints by Chris Sleath, a local printmaker based in Edinburgh, hand-printed especially for Dick’s.
We also had a sneak peak of some fab wooden sledges that will be available for Christmas – the perfect toy for big and little kids!
I have worked with Uli on many occasions over the years, most recently on my Elle Decoration story. She took the images at the top of the post and is continuing to work as a photographer, travelling to London for shoots, but will also now be able to work for companies in Scotland. I also took a few snaps of my own when we visited the shop.
Andrew and Uli have renovated the Georgian shop and basement into a simple and stylish interior – grey plaster walls, washed wooden floor and utilitarian steel and wooden fittings – that allows the beautiful clothes to breath, and the carefully selected home ware items are a perfect complement to the space. The store is only a 10 minute walk from Prince’s Street in the centre through the New Town, at 3 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh EH3 6ST (Tel 0131 226 6220). See map here.
So if you ever visit Edinburgh do pop by and say hello to Andrew and Uli and have a browse in Dick’s. There are perfect things for the men in your life and you can pick up a little something for yourself too!
If you know anyone in or near Edinburgh there please share this page with them. A new Dick’s website and online shop is underway but in the meanwhile you can follow what’s happening and see more of what is on offer if you ‘like’ their Dick’s Facebook page.
I wish Uli and Andrew the very best of success with their new venture and look forward to a return visit soon! x
I had the pleasure of popping over to Scottish jewellery designer maker Grainne Morton’s house whilst in Edinburgh and thought you would love to see it too. Grainne and I were at art college together and although we studied different subjects, we have kept in contact over the years. I bought my first piece of commissioned artwork from her to commemorate graduating from my BA as Grainne completed her MA. It now hangs in my daughter’s bedroom and I still love it. Every now and again at certain times in my life I try and save up and treat myself to commemorate an important event or achievement, and this was the first time. Grainne combines miniature found objects, often vintage and antique collected items, into exquisite unique arrangements set in precious metals – from small items like rings and cufflinks to necklaces, bracelets, brooches and jewellery artworks.
Grainne and her husband’s home has a lovely feel, full of character and warmth and that evening was filled with flickering candles, kitsch, dark and moody, fun and flippant but sophisticated too. So many unexpected items and objects to give little surprises and pleasures when you saw them. Gorgeous vignettes everywhere you looked, like a giant version of her jewellery. Luckily I had my camera and Grainne was happy to let me take some photos to share as her other guests arrived.
It was the Saturday evening when we popped over to her family home, filled with friends for a little bonfire and Halloween party, the children bobbed for apples hanging from strings, there were hollowed out pumpkins, marshmallows toasted over a fire, hot sausages in rolls and a homemade Halloween piñata followed by fireworks – a perfect evening, thank you Grainne!
I also took a few photos in her studio where her window and desk look onto the garden. I loved to see all her materials so beautifully organised, so much to play with and surrounded by inspiration.
The next treat I bought from her was when I had just finished my first book and I saw Grainne at a show in London and bought a flower brooch from her. I love it and it is a beautiful reminder of an achievement I was proud of (you can see the brooch here). For a special birthday my husband bought a gift voucher for me to choose something from Grainne’s collection and while she was exhibiting at the Made London design and craft show I chose a beautiful necklace and ring. I love them and have had lots of complementary comments while wearing them already.
You can find out more and see her work on Grainne’s website and her blog. Grainne’s work is also available to buy online at Seek & Adore. So if you fancy treating yourself to something special or putting it on your gift list this Christmas I highly recommend Grainne’s jewellery.
If you’re lucky enough to live near Edinburgh you can pop along to Grainne’s open studio and sample sale on 1st and 2nd December where there will be 15% off her current collection and well as sale items, and for those in London you can see her work at the Primrose Hill Designer Sale on the 8th December. Find out more here.
I hope you love her house and her work as much as I do.
I love to visit the annual New Designers show in Islington, North London every year and it is a show I try not to miss. It doesn’t seem long ago that I was exhibiting there as a graduating student myself. The raw talent of the year’s graduates is always exciting to see, their futures not yet mapped out. It is a joy to see them showcasing their work. Their enthusiasm and excitement is infectious and you can feel their anticipation of what their future creative careers may hold.
At the end of last month I popped along to part one of the show which includes textiles, fashion and accessories, contemporary applied arts, ceramics, glass and jewellery and precious metalwork. I like to catch up with the tutors from Edinburgh College of Art where I studied and spend a couple of hours wandering around the show, looking at work, chatting with the graduates and supporting them by buying some work.
This year work of ceramicist Alison Rees caught my eye and I bought a few of her pieces. She had completed her studies a year ago and was exhibiting in the One Year On section of the show, where a select few designers from the previous year’s show are invited to exhibit again and are given a space to showcase their latest work. It was the graphic quality and small scale of Alison’s ceramics that I loved and drew me in. They work beautifully as a group and can be arranged in all sorts of configurations. I thought I would share these simple photos I took of them displayed in my home.
After we had been chatting for ten minutes, I gave her my business card and she looked at it and said, “I read your blog!!” It was quite a coincidence and I went rather red as it doesn’t happen very often!
Alison’s little pots now sit proudly on a shelf in my kitchen where I see them every time I pass by and give me such pleasure. You can get a sense of scale of them in the photo below, they’re about an inch and a half high. She is continuing her studies next year at the Royal College of Art and I wish her every success and will definitely be popping along to the RCA shows in the future.
You can see more of Alison’s work on her website here.
Purchasing work from new graduates means that not only do you have the most wonderful original art in your home but it shows support for them as they move in to the next stage of their creative lives. We have bought work from graduates almost every year since about 1996 which was when we had our first apartment with empty walls to fill. And now with the web it is much easier to keep in touch and see how they are getting on which is great.
We have work from textile artists like Debbie Smyth whose work you may now be familiar with, and Marion Parola who recently set up Bespoke Atelier textile design studio in Glasgow and also runs textile design workshops. Last year we bought a piece of work by Lesley Elliott which I posted about here. She is now studying film and recently travelled to Iceland to make a short film about their horses which has since won an award. You can see the film here.
If there is an art college near you it is worth finding out when the shows are on and going along if you can.
My very best wishes to all of this year’s design graduates for your future careers.
A couple of weekends ago I popped over to jeweller Emma Cassi‘s home with my family in tow to catch up with her, have a chat and buy some new jewellery. We first met several years ago and I always enjoy visiting her home and chatting with her and her husband, and all of our little ones playing together. Twice a year Emma opens up her London home as an informal shop for friends and clients. The drawers in her living room display her work, each one filled with collections of exquisite jewellery leaving me in the wonderful conundrum of which necklace, bracelet or hair grip to buy.
Emma’s lovely home changes subtly with each visit, another layer of interest has been added, new beautiful items placed in front of others, or maybe I just didn’t notice them the last time I was there and they caught my attention that day.
I always have friends in mind when I visit… who has a birthday soon? a new baby? a child’s treat? It’s extra fun buying for others as well as yourself. A little set will be travelling to the other side of the world to a friend who deserves a treat and has just had a new baby. It is wrapped so beautifully too in music paper with string, elegant and simple.
A vintage beaded top hangs over a door in Emma’s living room, popping with neon inspiration.
So after a couple of hours of catching up and cups of tea, I returned home with treasure to wear and and a package of gorgeousness to mail across continents. A perfect afternoon.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 18 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
To enquire about commissioning Sania for commercial or editorial projects, please use the contact form.